K Balachander: Creator of Several Colorful Characters

After reading so many tributes to director K Balachander who breathed his last on 23 Dec 2014, it may be little redundant to write again something about him. But wish to share something which others have missed out not intentionally because of KB's unlimited range of characters and their color.
But, as an avid movie buff, I found how much I have been attracted to his style of narrating in 1960s which fell into a completely different genre; he ushered a lot of symbolism (at times to the point of looking very synthetic), crisp dialogues, intelligent repartees and cerebral characters on the screen hitherto not witnessed. I still remember how he effectively exploited the flash back technique in two of his movies which were utter flops at that time; one ‘Nootrukku Nooru’ (a native version of ‘To Sir with Love’) and ‘Avargal’. In ‘Nootrukku Nooru’ when I watched even recently it kept my attention in tact notwithstanding the movie making had completely gone through a metamorphosis. Because, there are four or five characters who tell different versions of an event and that will change from one crucial point. I am not sure whether even the present days’ brilliant directors with so much of technicalities and graphics would be able to do it like KB did way back in 1960s.
When his earlier movie ‘Major Chandrakanth’ was released it neither had a conventional story nor any glamour. I remembered ‘Kumudam’ the popular Tamil Weekly known for its caustic movie reviews at that time wrote: ‘intha padam kasukku edutthathillai; aasaikku’ meaning ‘This movie is made not for money but for passion’.
When released ‘Avargal’ was a flop and was commented that the movie was ahead of time. The reason was the film completely lacked glamour and three different men vying for the attention of one married woman with a kid but their motives were diverse. One can never see a KB film in which that they ‘got married’ and ‘lived happily thereafter’.
As mentioned by many writers most of his movies were women centric. Even if they are sheer idiots as the one of Renuka in ‘Kalki’ or ‘psychic’ like Sarita in ‘Agni Satchi’, or ‘over possessive’ Geetha in ‘Puthu Puthu Arthangal’. I am not mentioning here the characters like Lalitha of ‘Arangetram’, Kavitha in ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai’, orSaritha from ‘Thanneer Thanneer’. They are basically feminine, good natured and sacrificial. He created sensation when he made 'Nool Veli' where the hero develops a relationship with a girl much younger to him and the marital disharmony cropping up because of it. But, the girl's conviction in her relationship with the man was awesome even by todays standards. 'Kalyana Agathigal' another movie fully centered on many women deserted in the sanctimonious but lucrative business in India called 'marriage'. The non glamorous simple girl when asked to change her religion for marriage which was otherwise a distant dream for her, rejects it saying she is not for the change. But, the film not only bombed at the box office but also drew flak from public. But, today religious conversions are debated vociferously by one and all.  
His heroes also differed from the conventional protagonists of those times like Kamalahassan in ‘Manmadha Leelai’, Nagesh in ‘Server Sundaram’ and ‘Ethir Neechchal’ or Rajini Kant in ‘Moondru Mudichchu’ or Gemini Ganesan in ‘Naan Avanillai’. They were totally unconventional and were projected in absolutely different shades.
Another speciality was constructing a scene and the dialogues. They were the ‘talk’ of the critics and movie buffs at that time. The most talked one I could recall was the way he used the word ‘life’ and ‘file’ in his earlier movie ‘Iru Kodugal’.
KB had a great sense of humor. His comedies are well known and the most popular one being ‘Bhama Vijayam’ and “Thillu Mullu’.  The comedy track would be well integrated and even the cameos in his movies were well remembered for their uniqueness.
Like his favorite heroes, he had favorite heroines also; like the absolutely plain and plump looking Saritha whose talents were exceptional, Geetha, Jayanthi and finally Renuka who played many chirpy and memorable roles in his movies and television serials. He truly played the role of a mentor in their cases.
Even his latest and the last television serial ‘Shanthi Nilayam’ was a more sensible one than many of the contemporary mindless mega soaps.
One most admirable aspect of KB was he never sat idle. He was on job always at least concentrating on television serials since he could not make movies for the present generation audience. His last movie ‘Poi’ (2006) was a flop. Even before, he started recycling some of his earlier films in a slightly altered mode; for example ‘Manathil Uruthi Vendum’ was the color version of ‘Aval Oru Thodarkathai’ and ‘Azhagan’ was the sex changed version of ‘Avargal’.  
I feel KB lived a full life, achieved and also recognized and received all the credits and honors he deserved. He had done a great service to the Indian especially Tamil cinema by bringing more actors to the field apart from Kamalahassan and Rajini Kanth.
Mortal KB is dead. But, Immortal KB lives on through his creations and colorful characters. 


More by :  G Swaminathan

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